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    I’m an opinionated Grumpy Old Man. I enjoy the intellectual give and take that goes along with that, but have very little patience for stupid people (Note: there is a big difference between “stupid” and “educated”. Some of the stupidest people I’ve ever met have a PhD…). Beside arguing, I like to build things in almost any media. Right now I’m mostly building in wood, Lego, and a bunch of different electronic media. I teach in a number of different venues - from preschool all the way through graduate school. Subjects range from talmud to neuroscience to engineering.

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The Golan Heights

Ok, so after a rainy, cold (for Israel) shabbat, we decided to spend a rainy, cold Sunday cruising around the northern part of the country. We were staying at a kibbutz on the west side of lake Kinaret, so we decided to follow the shore around the south side, then wander north and see  what we found.

Of course, we found the Golan Heights. After an amazing set of switchbacks and steep uphill climbs, we found ourselves on a fairly typical mountain plateau. Fairly flat, a bit more lush than the surrounding country, and (surprise) sunny. we had driven up out of the rain.

The Golan is beautiful. Exactly what I expected as far as scenery is concerned. However, knowing the history of the region, there were a few things that sort of jumped out at me. The first was the observation that a few Apache helicopters could completely control the entire area. Armor, Israel’s (and Syria’s) traditional base tactical units wouldn’t stand a chance up here if there wasn’t significant air cover to keep the enemies air-born tank killers from engaging. The next thing that hit hard was the fact that as we drove, I kept seeing what were clearly infantry stations – the equivalent of trenches in the second world war. They were everywhere.

Now, I am hardly a military-type person. I did my gig in the army to pay for college (my experience in prostitution), was unlicky enough to land in a war, but lucky enough for it to have been a fairly small one that most people have already forgotten. Cruising through the Golan, and seeing all the clearly military leftovers brought a lot of it back. It wasn’t horrible, or mind-bending, or any of the Hollywood versions of what vets go through, but it was definitely disturbing. I found myself looking out the car window checking out cover, laying out fields of fire, and evaluating sites for defensibility.

The really odd bit was that as we drove back down out of the Golan it didn’t stop. All the way back home, I was surveying the landscape as a soldier. Once I got close to home, and had stopped at the grocery, it had cleared out, but it was pretty odd. I have to say, I can’t imagine living there – Israel is making a lot of noise about giving back to Syria (a mistake in my opinion), but regardless of what happens, I don’t think it will be particularly stable in the long run. To be fair, it HAS been very quiet for forty years (since Israel captured it in the Yom Kippur War). Of  course the strategic value of having high ground fro artillery is not particularly relevant in the world of rockets (not completely irrelevant, but not as important as it used to be). The big issue now is that returning the Golan would give Syria access to the waters of lake Kinaret, which is already being drained at an alarming rate.

One more political issue around here that really doesn’t have an answer….

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